I am a preacher. I believe that what I do is important, and I believe that what I preach is right. While I hope you believe it, too, I don’t expect you to accept everything I say with unquestioning faith (the only one worthy of that is God). John instructs us to “test the spirits” when we hear a preacher or a teacher (v.1). That means allowing the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus said would indwell us and “guide us into all truth” (see John 16:13), to test the validity of the message. Is the preacher true to Scripture, or has he lifted one verse out of context and twisted it to mean something other than the Holy Spirit intended when He inspired it? Is the teacher committed to a local church or is she unchecked and unendorsed? Does the speaker have a godly lifestyle, one that matches their message?
All these are important tests, but John indicates that the most important indicator of truthfulness is what the preacher or teacher believes about Jesus (v.2-3). If they confess that Jesus is anyone other than the eternally-existing, virgin-born, fully-God, fully-man, sinless, crucified, risen, exalted Savior and only hope of salvation — stop listening immediately. That person is disqualified, having taught in “the spirit of error” (v.6). (Note: John is not being arrogant in v.6 when he says, in essence, that if you don’t agree with him you are wrong. As an Apostle, John taught what He heard directly from Jesus, making his teaching completely true and trustworthy.)
In the remainder of this chapter the Apostle returns to the theme of the previous one: love as the supreme proof of salvation. It stands to reason that since “God is love” (v.8), any person in whom He lives will exhibit His love (v.15-16). God demonstrated His love by sending Jesus to be the “propitiation” for our sins (the saving sacrifice that satisfied justice, v.10). His love was expressed in unselfish sacrifice that blessed others. When His love is at work in us, we will do likewise; we will express love in unselfish ways that bless other people (v.11). Our love is both a reflection of God’s love and a response to God’s love: “We love because He first loved us” (v.19).
Here is our great challenge: to allow the love of God to flow through us unhindered. It is an issue of faith. Do I trust God enough to surrender to Him and to give Him control? With my will under His authority, I can love unselfishly and give of myself without any thought of what I might receive in return. Today, I choose to live in that kind of freedom. How about you?